Update: Lasso cut fuel prices, protesters lift some blockades, but economy still largely halted

Protests in Ecuador are still ongoing, but talks between president Guillermo Lasso and the indigenous association CONAIE have started on Saturday. 

Demonstrations started on June 13th led by CONAIE because of the rising costs of living, urging president Lasso to cut fuel and food prices, above all. 

Five people have at least died in the demonstrations so far, and twelve police officers are reported injured. Protesters have been blocking highways and roads, seriously halting the country’s economy. On top of that, oil wells, flower farms, and other businesses have been either assaulted or outright occupied to further clog the Ecuadorian economy. 

Sonia Guamangate, an Indigenous woman from Samanga in the volcanic Cotopaxi region, left two children at home to join tens of thousands of protesters who marched to the capital from the countryside, the Guardian reports. “The prices have risen in the city but what we get paid for our agricultural products remain the same,” she complained. “Sometimes they are paying as little as $5 or $6 for a quintal [100kg] of potatoes. That’s a year’s work for some of us,” she said.

Ecuadorian flower association Expoflores have been constantly sharing on their Twitter the damages that protests and protesters have been doing to the sector as a whole and to farms. Because of the supply chain disruptions, PrimeraPlanaECU claimed that the most affected sectors are the poultry, the dairy with losses of approximately USD 13 million, the agriculture and livestock sector with losses of more than USD 90 million, and the flower industry with losses of more than USD 30 million. 

Last Saturday, the first talks between the parties finally commenced, and Lasso has started giving some concessions. For instance, he announced a 10 cents cut to fuel prices, which will now cost $2.45 for gasoline extra, and $1.80 for diesel – both still higher than CONAIE had requested. On top of that, the government has announced subsidized fertilizers, debt forgiveness, and budget increases for health and education. As a response, CONAIE accepted to partially open roads to allow food into the capital, but they would remain in Quito until their demands are sufficiently met. “We are not going to leave the spilled blood of our brothers here. We came with a purpose,” Leonidas Iza, leader of CONAIE. 

In the meantime, Expoflores has kept sharing videos of protesters blocking highways, assaulting farms, and calling on growers to join the protest, oftentimes with a threatening tone. Iza said that while the business elite had received government bailouts after the pandemic, “for the poorest there is absolutely nothing”. “The crisis should be borne by all Ecuadorians, not only by the poor,” he said.

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